Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

 Session 2003-04
20 February 2004 Report into the Food Standards Agency and Shellfish

20 February 2004 Report into the Food Standards Agency and Shellfish

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has today published a report about the Food Standards Agency's monitoring of toxins in shellfish and in particular the recent atypical results found in cockles and the FSA's decision to close cockle beds as a result.

The main conclusions of the Committee are:

  • The FSA was slow to investigate alternative explanations for the atypical results and the delays in discovering the cause of the results have damaged the industry. It is imperative that the remaining research be completed as soon as possible.

  • The FSA has not lived up to its core value of being open and accessible. Communication and co-operation between the FSA, the industry and local authorities, which enforce closures, has been poor. The three parties should form a joint working group to develop common solutions in time for next year's main harvesting season.

  • The problems arising from the atypical results have highlighted discrepancies in testing across Europe and drawbacks with the animal testing methods used. The Government should work towards a common European method, which moves away from animal testing towards chemical testing.

The Committee set up a Sub-committee to conduct its inquiry. On publication of the report the Chairman of the Sub-committee, Austin Mitchell MP, said:

"The shellfish and cockle industries are neither big nor powerful but should not have been treated in the way that they have been by the Food Standards Agency, which has used the precautionary principle and its commitment to science to disguise the fact that it has neither examined its own scientific methods nor consulted the industry before inflicting very real and unnecessary  damage".

Members of the media wanting further information are asked to call 020 7219 3263.